Abrupt environmental shift associated with changes in the distribution of Cape anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus spawners in the southern Benguela
AbstractCape anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus spawners in the southern Benguela showed an eastward shift in their distribution on the Agulhas Bank that occurred abruptly in 1996 and has since persisted. We assessed whether this shift was environmentally mediated by examining sea surface temperature data from different regions of the Agulhas Bank, which showed that in 1996 the inner shelf of the Agulhas Bank to the east of Cape Agulhas abruptly became 0.5°C colder than in previous years and has since remained that way. In addition, signals, coherent with the 1996 shift recorded in sea surface temperatures, were also found in atmospheric surface pressure and zonal wind data for that region; interannual coastal SST variability is also shown to be correlated with zonal wind-stress forcing. As a result, increased wind-induced coastal upwelling east of Cape Agulhas is proposed as the main driver of the observed cooling in the coastal region. The synchrony between the environmental and biological signals suggests that the eastward shift in anchovy spawner distribution was environmentally mediated and arose from a change in environmental forcing that altered the relative favourability for spawning between regions to the west and east of Cape Agulhas. The results highlight how a relatively minor change in environmental conditions can lead to a drastic spatial reorganisation of the life history of one species in an ecosystem.
Keywords: Agulhas Bank; anchovy; Cape Agulhas; distributional shifts; Engraulis encrasicolus; environmental variability; southern Benguela
African Journal of Marine Science 2007, 29(3): 309–319